Healthcare: On the Agenda - Failing to exercise as bad as smoking

In a nutshell

A lack of exercise is causing as many deaths as smoking across the world, according to a Lancet study timed to coincide with the start of the Olympic Games.

The findings

A failure to exercise is a trigger for up to ten per cent of four major diseases: coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and breast and colon cancer. While a third of adults are at 'high risk' of developing disease, as many as four out of five adolescents are at the same level of risk due to sedentary lifestyles. Report co-author Dr I-Min Lee, from Harvard Medical School, Boston, used the Olympics as a reference, saying: 'This summer, we will admire the breathtaking feats of athletes competing in the Games. Although only the smallest fraction of the population will attain these heights, the overwhelming majority of us are able to be physically active at very modest levels.' The study was carried out by 33 researchers using detailed country-specific data to quantify the impact of physical inactivity on non-infectious diseases.

PR strategy

The study was sent under embargo to a select advance contacts list of about 20 journalists in the UK and US last week, and then sent out widely. A press conference was held under embargo, at which the BBC and Sky TV filmed interviews with lead researchers.

Media coverage

The story led BBC Breakfast, BBC 6pm and 10pm news, the Today programme and other BBC channels, Sky News and Al-Jazeera English and the Daily Mail.

2.5 - Recommended minimum hours per week of exercise

10% - Percentage of deaths worldwide caused by lack of exercise.

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